Looking Up: Chain Gang

Jun 5, 2017

Strange links...
Credit Credit & Copyright: Piotrek Sadowski / nasa.gov

This week on Looking Up we link up with Hal to learn about the Markarian Chain of Galaxies.  

Some people like to wear chains. Some people like to wear really big chains. But in the Southern Colorado skies right now, you can see the biggest chain out there – Markarian’s Chain.

This chain is actually a chain of galaxies that are members of the famous Virgo super-cluster of galaxies. If you can find dark skies, away from most city lights, a telescope will reveal up to a half dozen or so faint galaxies, seemingly lined up in a, well, chain of galaxies.

There are two Messier objects that are part of this chain, M84 and M86. They are about 65 million light years away, and M84 is estimated to weigh as much as 500 billion solar masses. That’s a big link in the chain! At the heart of M84 is a super-massive black hole that all by itself weighs 18 million times the mass of the Sun. The Hubble Space Telescope has captured images of jets of matter being ejected from the galaxy’s center, along with a number of stars rapidly spinning around the black hole. So, if you want to wear Markarian’s chain, you’ll really need to stick your neck out! 

If you’d like to take a closer look at Markarian’s Chain or any of the wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit csastro.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties! 

This is Hal Bidlack for the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society, telling you to keep looking up, Southern Colorado!